NEW YORK Encouraging news from the job market pushed the stock market up early Thursday, putting the Standard & Poor's 500 index near its all-time high.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained six points to 1,560, a rise of 0.4 percent. It's just five points away from the record high it reached in October 2007.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62 points to 14,517, putting the index on course for 10 straight days of gains. The last time that happened was November 1996. Chevron led the Dow higher, rising more than 1 percent.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week, the Labor Department reported, implying that the job market is strengthening. The four-week average, a more stable measure, fell to the lowest since March 2008, four months after the economy slid into the Great Recession.
On Wednesday, there was more positive news on the economy when the Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail spending increased in February at the fastest pace in five months. That came despite higher payroll taxes that kicked in at the beginning of the year.
"We've been getting some really good economic statistics," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for ING U.S. Investment Management. "And that's positive for asset prices."
The gains were broad in early trading, though slight. Of the 10 industries in the S&P 500, utilities and health care companies were the only groups to fall. The Nasdaq composite rose 10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,255.
The stock market's surge this year will likely pull more people out of cash and into stocks, analysts say. The Dow is up 10 percent so far this year, the S&P 9 percent.
"When the markets are running you just want to be part of it," Cote said. "Sitting on the sidelines is the wrong move."
So far, retail investors appear unsure. They put money in U.S. stock funds to start the year, but have withdrawn money for the last two weeks, according to a report out Wednesday from the Investment Company Institute.
In the Treasury market, the yield on the 10-year note rose to 2.05 percent from 2.02 percent late Wednesday. Better economic news tends to draw traders out of the Treasury market, and when bond prices drop, yields rise.
Among other stocks making big moves—
- Coldwater Creek (CWTR) jumped 19 percent after the retailer of women's clothing posted a loss late Wednesday that was smaller than analysts had expected. Its stock rose 61 cents to $3.81.
- Men's Wearhouse (MW) also soared 19 percent after the clothing company said Wednesday that its quarterly loss shrank, helped by better sales. Men's Wearhouse gained $5.65 to $34.67.